Understanding Infertility – Its Symptoms and Causes
Infertility is on the rise. Several environmental factors, lifestyle changes, societal practices such as late marriages and casual sex may lead to infertility.
According to the WHO, infertility rates have increased by 4% since the 1980s.
What is Infertility?
A couple may develop a strong desire to become parents at some point in their lives. This is when they start planning to get pregnant.
However, even after a year of trying, if they are not successful in getting pregnant, they are considered infertile. Therefore, in a nutshell, a couple is considered as infertile when they have regular unprotected sex that is carefully timed and yet is unable to conceive.
Infertility is rarely a standalone disease and may be related to diseases such as diabetes, PCOS or hormonal disorders in both the partners.
Hence, it becomes even more necessary to get oneself examined by a gynecologist to rule out any health dysfunctions.
What are the common causes of Female Infertility?
- Advancing age of the Female partner- As women age their ability to conceive naturally reduces. This is primarily due to the number and quality of eggs that deteriorate as she grows older. The number and fertility of the eggs reduce considerably after a woman reaches 30. This does not mean that after a woman turns 30, or even 40 cannot conceive. However, the chances of natural conception are considerably lower as is evident from statistics worldwide.
- Infrequent menstruation- A normal menstrual cycle is 28 to 30 days. Ovulation occurs and eggs are released during menstruation. Sometimes infrequent menstruation can indicate ovulation dysfunctions which will directly impact fertility. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), certain neural issues and ovarian insufficiency are the most common causes of ovulation problems. Hence, infrequent menstruation requires a thorough check.
- Blockage in the Fallopian tubes- Certain sexually transmitted infections or pelvic inflammatory diseases may lead to blocked Fallopian tubes in a woman. Due to this, the sperm is not able to fertilize the egg. In- Vitro Fertilization is one of the treatments in this case.
- Endometriosis- sometimes endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, this may affect the function of the ovaries, uterus and the Fallopian tubes.
- Certain Uterine or cervical abnormalities may hinder conception.
What are the common causes of Male Infertility?
- Abnormalities in Sperm Production and Quality- The Sperm Motility and health is very important for a successful conception. Several factors such as undescended testicles, genetic defects, diabetes or infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps, and HIV can cause sperm quality and quantity. Varicocele (enlarged veins in the testes) is another factor leading to sperm deterioration. Overheated testicles can also cause lowered sperm count. Taking hot saunas or wearing tight clothing may lead to this.
- Ejaculation problems- Any blockage in the testicles or sexual problems such as premature ejaculation is a common cause of infertility.
- Other factors- Lifestyle habits such as smoking, tobacco use, alcohol, certain treatments due to cancer, hormonal imbalances and over-exercising can also lead to lowered sperm count.
What is the Treatment for Infertility?
The diagnosis and the cause of infertility will decide the treatment. Generally, IUI or Intrauterine Insemination is the first line of treatment. This involves good quality sperms placed near the uterus so that conception takes place faster.
The success rates of an IUI increase with every cycle. Sometimes one may require an IVF or an In-Vitro Fertilization.
Precautions to avoid Infertility
In order to avoid infertility, both partners need to maintain a healthy lifestyle by following a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercises to avoid being overweight. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and smoking, avoiding drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.
Avoiding stress, physical and mental will also go a long way in avoiding infertility.
And lastly, it is always best that a gynecologist checks you in case of any indications of a health malfunction. This will go a long way in ensuring that you receive the right treatment and on time.